We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Comparison Between a Lesson Before Dying and If We Must Die Essay Sample

The whole doc is available only for registered users OPEN DOC
  • Pages:
  • Word count: 872
  • Category: novel

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all help you need with your essay and educational issues.

Get Access

Comparison Between a Lesson Before Dying and If We Must Die Essay Sample

Both encouraged from the racial ages of America, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines and “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay complement one another. “If We Must Die” is based off of the race riots in Harlem. Although A Lesson Before Dying is a fictional novel, “If We Must Die” summarizes the meaning of the novel. Through the use of symbolism, dialect, tone, and theme, the two literary inscriptions become one. The tone of A Lesson Before Dying has an educational feel to it, as well as being gradual and heroic. Grant being at the jail to visit Jefferson presents the feel of wanting to learn, the urge for wanting to prove one’s self to society.

When Jefferson is implied to be a Christ figure, the feeling switches to heroic and exciting. The tone expressed in “If We Must Die,” is also heroic, yet exciting in a different way. Gaines, being an educated African-American man as well, used particular dialect one would not usually see in novels placed in such a racial time. Grant was the educated man of the novel—speaking like a white person, so to speak. Reading through Jefferson’s journal truly grabs the attention of the reader, by the dialect being so clear and spot on of a simple African-American. The dialect in this novel is important, for it lets the reader know what type of person they are reading about – whether it’s the intelligent Grant who does not know how to stay positive, or Miss Emma, who does not know how to control herself as well as the others. The dialect used in “If We Must Die,” is much like Grant, but as a leader instead.

Starting off in A Lesson Before Dying, the story of Jefferson is unfolded. The narrator speaks of the trial and of the prosecutor claiming that Jefferson is a hog, and not a man. In “If We Must Die,” McKay states that, “If we must die—let it not be like hogs,” marking the first connection between the two. Throughout the poem, McKay insists that no man should not die a man, and that no man should be considered a hog. If a man must die, he must die noble and honored. A man must stand up to the men and the monsters that defied his own dignity. Explained in A Lesson Before Dying, Jefferson is deemed as the hog – the hog who is going to die just as that. But Jefferson’s godmother refused to let her little man die as a hog in society’s eyes. The narrator, introduced as an educated African-American named Grant, is expected to change this unnecessary view of Jefferson. Although Jefferson is a stubborn man – as he also took the “hog” remark to heart – he lets Grant give him two things: a radio and a notebook.

Through the use of symbolism, the radio Jefferson receives connects his isolated life to the bustling, outside world; whereas earlier mentioned in the novel, Jefferson completely shut out humanity. Physically, it destroyed the barrier between Jefferson and the community, while also destroying the internal isolation Jefferson locked himself into.

Grant gave Jefferson a notebook to collect his thoughts as well, this informing the reader that Jefferson is nowhere near being a hog and that he is only belittling himself because society sees him as a cowardly colored man. In his notebook, Jefferson proves that he is not what every man thought he was. He collects his high hopes in his notebook, wishing for a better link between black and white. His thoughts were deep, letting the reader know that Jefferson was already a man – just a man waiting to be proven. Jefferson became a very popular man while he was on death row; he became a figure of interest, much like Jesus Christ when he was convicted for the wrong reasons. Grant begins to view Jefferson as Christ, while Gaines subtly hints throughout the book that, that is what he was aiming for.

Throughout this novel, the reader gets flashes of pessimism, education, heroism, anger, justice, etc. Many are the themes of this novel, one most importantly being justice. The reader is grabbed into the thought of saving Jefferson, although this was never achieved. Justice was indeed served, as Jefferson blossomed into a courageous man, even dying as an honored soul; “He was the strongest man in that crowded room, Grant Wiggins…I’m a witness.” Jefferson became the great man Miss Emma intended him to be because of Grant and his power to teach what needed to be taught to him. As if Jefferson died in “If We Must Die,” Jefferson died a noble man. He fought back.

A Lesson Before Dying and “If We Must Die” both complement one another on different scales—symbolism, dialect, tone, and theme—although each are separate in their own way. Each speak of the greatness that comes out of a man when convinced he is good enough no matter what society portrays him. Only the man inside a man matters, and no man should think of himself as a hog. No man shall die a hog; “If we must die—oh, let us die nobly.”

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

Pale Horse Pale Rider

Reading the three different novels "Old Mortality", "Noon Wine" and "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" you will learn that despite the different plots in the novels there is a common thread. The protagonists in all three novels has been challenged or locked in some way by the society but finally breaks free and live a better life the way they want to. The strong individual beats...

A Joke That Is Not So Funny

"Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day" (Russell). From this quote from Anton Chekhov, one can tell he viewed life in...

Novels Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas also known as Alexandre Dumas, Pere is a french author best known for his talents, prolific plays, and historical adventure novels. He was born on july 24, 1802 in villers-cotterers, France. Duams, got his last name from his grandmother, who was a former haitian slave. He was french’s most popular authors in the 19th century. His novels the three musketeers and the court...

To Kill a Mockingbird essays

To Kill a Mockingbird is a heroic tale filled with demonstrations of leadership and courage by several characters throughout the story, yet there are characters within the novel who display the exact opposite . To Kill a Mockingbird shows courage and the lack of it in many forms. Courage is shown when people step out of their comfort zones and face adversity in any way....

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

Ms. Ria Singh English B To Kill a Mockingbird. Discuss the theme of appearance vs reality in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In Harper Lees novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme of appearance vs reality is a very prevalent one. In the novel, there are two types of prejudice presented, that is racial prejudice and social prejudice. Racial prejudice is presented throughout the...

Get Access To The Full Essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Become a member

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Couldn't Find What You Looking For?

Get access to our huge knowledge base which is continuously updated

Next Update Will Be About:
14 : 59 : 59
Become a Member